What are you Missing that’s Free?

band-984164_1920 (1)In preparation for doing a bunch of home projects, I was just checking to see if my township still offered free dump day. The answer was, nope I couldn’t get free dump days any longer. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my garbage company actually offers a large pick up service, free, four times a year. They even deliver large trash bags as part of the service.

This was as good, or better, than free dump day in my mind. And it got me thinking, what are all my frugal friends missing that’s free?

Apparently, a LOT. Below is just the tip of the iceberg:

Utilities. My local utility company offers a free service where they will come to your home every three years and check out your power needs, take some measurements and then they suggest ways you can reduce your power and water bills. They will even send you a report. I actually know this because I used the service myself a few years back. Granted, I ended up replacing two old toilets and putting in a pressure gauge but that ended up in considerable long term savings as one of those toilets was actually leaking and causing me to spend far more money on my water bill than necessary. Check with your local utilities as they also may offer discounts and services for those on limited incomes, for seniors, etc.

Garbage services. Go on line and figure out what additional pick up services may be offered. Most cities also offer special pick up or drop off days for hazardous materials several times a year.

Community Centers. Often your local city run community centers off free clubs and activities for teens and kids as well as seniors. Sign up for a newsletter to keep track. I’ve also seen community centers offer free tax advice, free art and music classes and other services. There are even free screenings of movies sometimes along with local community theatre groups that sometimes give free shows. My city had a blow out sale at the local library last year and while not free, friends claimed they picked up stacks of books for pennies on the dollar. And a library card is free, thanks to the vision of old Ben Franklin.

Parks and Recreation. Your local swings and merry-go-rounds are free. So are your local city dog parks and beaches. Hiking trails are generally free, picnic grounds and even BBQ pits are usually free. Your taxes pay for them, why not use them? Some schools don’t mind if you use their tracks to run when school is not in session, just be sure and ask first.

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Fire department and police. I am not talking about calling 911 though seeing our men and women in action is pretty darn priceless when your house is on fire or someone you love is having a heart attack. What I am talking about is expertise. My partner reports that he and his former fire department offer free car seat and smoke detector installation. I know my local police will also come to local homes and advise residents on home security measures. Years back, they even went door to door when a spate of burglaries occurred in my neighborhood. When I answered the door holding my barking dog by the collar, the cops kind of chuckled and assured me that real professional burglars would never try and hit a house with a dog that sounded like mine did (she truly sounds like a bull mastiff). When the registration tag on my car somehow disappeared and I had to have a police officer sign off on the new one (fix it ticket) the nice officer, without me even asking, actually came out of the police station to my car and showed me how to score the tag with an Exacto knife so that no thief would steal another tag. Very useful. Every jurisdiction is different of course but it is worth it to make a polite phone call to your local first responders, it could save you a lot.

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Humane Society/Animal Control. You can often find cheap immunizations or even free spay and neutering services. And while you are at it, save a life. Oh and if you find a wild animal in your backyard, don’t even think about dealing with it yourself. Call Animal Control. That’s their job and what they are trained for. A few years ago the local news reported on a couple living against the hills in South San Jose who came home late one afternoon to find their two Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs had actually treed a rather large mountain lion. Kitty managed to run off before Animal Control could get their claws on it but no dogs were harmed. Talk about home security. I suspect the dog owners now have life long bragging rights. Dude, you win ok? Your dogs are badder than the badest. Woof. 

Local Festivals and Events. Many local events from food themed festivals to 4th of July fireworks to wine and arts events, are free. Now, what you choose to spend your money on at said events and festivals can drain your budget so beware of all those cool crafts and knickknack booths. The food stalls might be expensive too. Bring your own snacks if you can. When we decided to adopt Annabelle we actually went to a local Bark in the Park so we could chat face-to-face with real pit bull owners. We did pay an, ‘owners fee’ to attend, which turned out to be an extremely modest tax deductible donation. The advice we received from all the friendly pit bull owners we met was invaluable. Plus, we were reassured to pet and play with some of the mellowest and friendly pit bulls ever. We even got to thank a few K9 officers for their service though they were bored German Shepherds doing community out reach. All part of the job, Miss, all part of the job. Woof.

Free music. Many cities host free summer series for jazz or other music in their larger parks. Pack a picnic, bring your blanket and enjoy free tunes under the stars or on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

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